Just west of Colorado State University’s main campus in Fort Collins, the new state-of-the-art Temple Grandin Equine Center opened its doors recently as the new home of one of the leading equine-assisted services facilities in the world.

Named for CSU Department of Animal Sciences professor and autism advocate Temple Grandin and constructed with generous support from donors, the building is home to a 14,000-square-foot climate-controlled arena, 100-person viewing area with smart technology, and a 500-square-foot traditional clinical therapy room that support student learning, client success and research advancement for the EAS industry. The modern facility will enhance CSU’s ability to serve individuals with physical, emotional and developmental challenges while elevating the role of the horse in society in a world-class teaching and learning environment.

Celebrating a Milestone

On March 25, a small group gathered at the Temple Grandin Equine Center for a ribbon cutting and celebration. The facility buzzed with energy from concurrent therapy sessions and client families watched from the arena viewing area. Ribbon cutters included CSU President Joyce McConnell, College of Agricultural Sciences Dean James Pritchett, Head of the Department of Animal Sciences Keith Belk, Temple Grandin Equine Center Director of Administration and Outreach Adam Daurio, and the building’s namesake, Professor Grandin.

Grandin’s story is widely known – as teenager with autism struggling to find her place in the world, a summer on her aunt’s ranch in Arizona sparked an interest in horses that she took home with her to New Hampshire.

“Horses saved my life,” says Grandin. “They were very important for me for getting friends.”

At boarding school, Grandin and her roommate connected over their shared passion, working together at the school’s horse barn. Horses, she said, gave her a purpose.

“I was responsible for the school’s horse barn, every day,” Grandin says. “Nine stalls. I put them in and out. Fed them. Made sure I never left the grain box open. That’s responsibility. The other thing I learned from horses: I learned how to work.”

Today, Grandin is a leading voice for animal welfare, a college professor, and an outspoken advocate for people with autism. She recognizes the transformative affect that horses can have on others with physical, emotional and developmental challenges, as they did on her.

The new facility is as unique as Grandin herself, combining all of the facets of an equine facility with those of a physical and occupational therapy clinic.

Photos: Tanya Fabian 

A Unique Facility

The Temple Grandin Equine Center, which broke ground in February 2020, totals 30,000 square feet, and includes equine, clinical, administrative and classroom spaces. In addition to the arena, the center’s nine therapy horses reside in a 10-stall barn, with nearby outdoor runs, tack area, and space for boots and helmets. A mounting area makes it easier for riders of all physical abilities to mount their therapy horse. Family members and other viewers can watch sessions in the arena’s 1,100-square-foot viewing area.

Separate from the equine areas, clinical space includes a therapy room featuring a climbing wall, swings, games, and an “equicizer,” a mechanical horse that helps riders build strength, balance and confidence outside of the arena. Down the hall is an accessible restroom with an adult changing table and a roll-in shower. The facility also includes conference and office space, as well as a classroom and event space.

“This project is the culmination of many years of hard work and great partnerships with our generous donors, dedicated practitioners, inquisitive researchers, and hardworking students and volunteers,” says Daurio, the center’s director of administration and outreach. “Through this innovative facility, we are proud to offer a broad array of equine-assisted programming and education to uphold the CSU mission of teaching, research and engagement.”

From 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, the Temple Grandin Equine Center offers a variety of therapy and therapeutic services to clients of all abilities and backgrounds, ranging in age from 18 months to 99 years. The center partners with licensed practitioners and certified instructors from Front Range Exceptional Equestrians, My Heroes Therapy, and Hearts & Horses.

With COVID-19 protocols in place, about 100 clients come to the center each week for research, evaluation and therapy. This is an increase of 65 patients a week compared to the capacity in neighboring Adams Atkinson Arena, where the program has been housed since its creation in 2015. Once the pandemic subsides, physical and occupational therapy and adaptive horsemanship sessions will expand to include more group programming.

The first official research project in the new facility, led by Dr. Caiti Peters, began in February. In additional to therapy sessions, around 50 clients participate in research at the Temple Grandin Equine Center each year.

With 2,500 square feet of classroom space, about 65 undergraduate students participate in courses at the Temple Grandin Equine Center each semester. Course offerings include an introduction to EAS, principles of teaching therapeutic riding; facility management; and equine behavior, assessment and evaluation, and care and training. Approximately 150 CSU undergraduate students also engage in extracurricular activities and volunteer work at the TGEC each semester.

Photos: Ryan Brooks

Expanding the impact

In 2017, the Temple Grandin Equine Center opened a second facility in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, broadening its reach to serve clients in the metro area. That facility will also receive a major upgrade later this year as it moves to the new CSU Spur Campus at the National Western Complex, where it will be housed in one of the campus’ three buildings currently under construction. The three-story Vida building at Spur, set to open in 2022, will be home to 15 horses and include space to facilitate 250 therapy sessions a week. New dormitory space will allow students to live and work on site, and additional clinical spaces will help increase the facility’s impact, especially related to mental health services.

While the new Fort Collins facility serves as the hub for equine-assisted education and research, the opportunity to have a robust program with data collection at the Spur building will broaden the community impact.

“As we look ahead to 2022, we are excited to continue building the momentum of this incredible project,” Daurio says. “We are looking forward to the opportunity to expand the reach of the Temple Grandin Equine Center in both the Fort Collins and Denver communities and to share the incredible impact of equine-assisted services.”